Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

A short novel about depression and mental illness, this book is well written and wonderfully descriptive but not very uplifting.  Two English families are on holiday in a French villa when a booking mix up results in a young unstable girl turning up on their doorstep.  They invite her to stay and this triggers the unravelling of relationships within and between the families.   I did enjoy this but it is dark and quite unsettling.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Yes this is a sequel to Wolf Hall. It continues where that left off, seamlessly.

There is one difference. Many critics of Wolf Hall commented that they could not always follow who was speaking - 'who is "he"?' was the universal cry. Hilary Mantell has, wonderfully sarcastically, taken this 100% on board. Now every pronoun is followed by the relevant characters name: "He, Thomas Cromwell..." etcetera. You can almost hear the footnote - "in your face, you ignorant ****s, I trust this is now clear enough for you".

Apart from that amusing aside please reference my Wolf Hall review.

As I shut the book, I realise - Good God she's only on wife number 2.

Philida by Andre Brink

 A book about slavery in the wine regions of South Africa just before emancipation.  The novel is narrated by Philida, a slave who has a relationship with her owner, and this makes it a very immediate read.  Philida is a very well developed character and it is easy to engage with her, which makes this book very readable.  The language is simple but very well crafted and enjoyable to read.  The plot does move quite slowly in parts but it is still an engrossing story.  I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it is not a light read.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

This novel is set in Malaysia post World War II.  A Japanese gardener settles in the Malaysian hills alongside an Englishman's tea estate to work on a formal Japanese garden.  Yun Ling, a young Chinese woman, comes to visit the estate and becomes engrossed in the process of Japanese gardening whilst struggling with memories of her violent World War II experiences.  A very deep, complex novel which is not an easy read but is definitely rewarding.  The plot is quite slow so this is not a gripping page turner, but the language is evocative and it is worth persevering.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Skios by Michael Frayn

An easy to read, engaging and at times thought provoking novel about identity.  The plot follows two strangers on a plane to a Greek island who, through a series of coincidences and assumptions, unknowingly switch places.  It is a fun, if a little unlikely story, which contains (if you want it to and if you look for it) a serious message about personality and self.  The characters are easy to relate to and very likeable which adds to the light-hearted charm of this book.  Another great holiday read that you could read deeper into if you felt like it.

Whilst I am surprised this made it into the Booker long list, I very much enjoyed this book which is well written without being pompous and pitches the moral analysis just right.

The Yips by Nicola Barker


A long and bizarre novel.  The writing is very good and the plot is fairly engrossing but the character development is minimal and the dialogue staggeringly unrealistic.   How many teenagers who fail their A levels and find themselves working in a hotel bar pepper their banter with words like "suppurating"?

In my opinion, the lack of connection with the characters made this book a lot less engaging than it would otherwise have been.  The best novels are those that read like a conversation bringing a story to life and this novel was much too flat, almost essay like, to achieve that.  Instead, although it is easy to appreciate the language and even the unusual plot, there is something so one dimensional about this book that I frequently found myself subconciously drifting off into shopping lists and must-not-forget-to-dos.  A shame because there is a lot of quality writing here, but the dialogue lets it down.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

I really enjoyed this book which is about a man who feels stifled by his nursing home and so goes on an adventure on his 100th birthday.  It is fun, well written and with some brilliantly eccentric characters.  It is not a realistic novel so don't try to pick holes in the plot or over analyse it - it's just a very good, light-hearted story which would be a perfect summer read.